Chicago 1982 is a goldmine for the construction industry, and Eric and his two business partners are thriving. Once nothing more than orphans in a Catholic boys’ home, they’ve overcome poverty and abuse to obtain success. Now living the lives they once only dreamed of, they’re sure of one thing: they will never look back.
Then the past returns, by way of a cheap polyester suit and a smile Eric has never forgotten—and all the dark memories come crashing back. Lucky for him, Jimmy has no idea who Eric is, or who Eric used to be…
They have one hundred and three acres right off the waterway,” Mark says, twisting the knob on the overhead until the map on the screen sharpens into a proper view. He walks towards the image and taps it around the southwestern mid-mark, then turns to glare at both Devin and I. “A veritable gold mine in real estate potential alone.”
Devin opens his mouth and lifts a finger in that way that says he’s about to disagree. Which he does; I know he does. He’s told me half a dozen times this morning alone that he’s completely against the venture, and every single time he’s told me, he’s managed to find a different “why.” Neither Mark nor I need to hear it again.
Mark beats me to the punch, cuts Devin off with an, “I get it,” and starts pacing in front of the screen. “Development costs, environmental issues, blah, blah, blah. But what you seem to be missing, Dev, is that this is practically waterfront. Water. Front. Even if it costs us a couple of million to clean it up, we’re going to triple our investment on housing potential alone. We all know what people are willing to pay for houses on the water. And this close to the city? Two words, my friends: gold, mine.” He pauses, and looks at each of us in turn. “Come on guys, it’s the eighties. We have to stop thinking small time and start thinking like the powerhouses that our customers expect us to be.”
“It’s not waterfront,” I clarify, lifting my eyes and holding Mark’s gaze in an attempt to diffuse the man’s rant. As much as there are days when I’d give my eye-teeth to find some way, any way, to get rid of my two partners, I also know that I’d be screwed without them. We make a damn good team. We always did. And I don’t want to lose one of them to a popped brain cell mid-meeting. “It won’t ever be waterfront. It will merely be what it is now. Property off a channel that’s been heavily polluted by industry and full of run-off.”
Mark growls and tosses his pen on to the table, flopping into the three-hundred dollar, extra-padded, black leather boardroom seat like it’s nothing more than a lawn chair.
“That being said, I’m not specifically against your idea.” I pull the plans he’s spread out on the table closer, and pinch the bridge of my nose to get my eyes to focus again. It’s only Tuesday. I should not feel so exhausted.
“But I’m going to play the part of this seesaw’s fulcrum here, Mark. I have to. Devin has legitimate concerns. Why don’t the two of you get out there and get some of those environmental studies done before we make up our minds, and—”
“And Dolwynn and Associates will steal it right from under us while we waffle over bullshit concerns,” Mark says. “You know that, I know that, and goddamn Devin knows that, which is why he’s making this so fucking difficult in the hopes that they’ll get it before us so that we won’t have to worry about it.”
“Excuse me for trying to save us three million,” Devin hisses.
That right there is enough for me to say enough. I’m not about to start refereeing their schoolyard bickering again, and if they insist on keeping it up… well, let’s just say that the look they both give me as I stand makes it obvious that they know I’m annoyed. Not that I would try and force my position. Not anymore. We’re men, not hooligans. Some things can’t be unlearned, though, and their voices fade as their tongues still.
I lighten my face into a smile and shove the plans back in Mark’s direction. “And if they do,” I tell him, “then they’ll spend the three and top it with an extra two before they realize that the entire plan was way too much of an undertaking, and we’ll buy it from them for half the price.”
“Trust me.” I reach up and tug at my collar even though my tie is already hanging loose. Whenever I get stressed out, my throat gets overly-sensitized, as if some unseen noose has fallen over it. “I haven’t been wrong yet, have I?”
It’s an argument I’ve used before, but it’s an argument that never fails me. I have yet to be proven wrong on a business hunch. I make no pretense on the fact that it could and probably will happen someday, it just hasn’t happened yet, and for the time being, it’s made the three of us very successful. They won’t argue with me. Each other? Hell yes; all day long if I’d let them. But not with me.
The hallway of the upper level of our building is almost blinding with daylight as I walk towards the stairs that will take me to the reception area and front entrance. It was Devin’s idea to go with skylights up here, and I’m glad we let him run with it. We spent way too much time in dingy, poorly-lit spaces during our youth. Besides, it’s supposed to make for a positive environment; vitamin this, that, and the other thing being leeched into our skins, making us all happier and healthier as we trudge through the workday. I’m not sure I buy into that sort of thing, but if Devin believes it, all the more power to him.
I glance down at my watch and frown. I’d been hoping to run to the gym before lunch so I can squat away some aggression and pump some adrenaline back into my muscles. That will have to wait, though. I already know this fact unquestionably, as the moment my feet fall on the landing, Haley from accounting is marching towards me with her four-inch heels clicking harder than Stacy’s keyboard.
“He’s here,” Haley says with an I-can’t-believe-you-kept-us-waiting huff. While I, in my let’s-not-forget-who-is-the-boss way, stop at Stacy’s desk to grab my messages and steal a mint out of her faux cut-crystal candy dish.
Stacy has been our receptionist since last summer. Everyone thinks she’s the sweetest little thing they’ve ever known, with her dimpled smile and perfect teeth and chipper “Hiya!” greetings. I, on the other hand, know Stacy started here through a work release program after spending eighteen months in jail for possession and trafficking. I happen to know those teeth are only perfect because two years ago the prison dentist replaced the leftover nubs of her choppers with fake ones. Some people say that someone with Stacy’s history is too risky to have around a business. Some say they wouldn’t trust Stacy with things like petty cash and office supplies. I know better. I say you don’t know loyalty until you’ve been on the savior end of a soul that’s crashing and burning.
“Be there in a second, Haley,” I say, propping myself on the right-side corner of Stacy’s station so I can flip through the pink squares with Stacy’s swirly handwriting on them. “Did you offer him a cup of coffee? Glass of water?”
I hold back my smirk, glancing at Stacy who I can tell is doing the same thing, as Haley offering someone a coffee is about as likely as her offering to do a strip tease. Some people like to think they’re above certain things. I often wonder what it would have been like to grow up in an environment where a person was taught to believe they were too good to do something. Where you didn’t ever have to scrub up vomit. Or shit. Or blood.
I wait until Haley spins in balletic disapproval and clicks down the hallway, no doubt retreating so that I don’t take myself seriously and actually decide I really do want her to get coffee. I nod at Stacy. “So?”
I lift an eyebrow. “Oh, yeah?”
“Hot like, you’re the perfect eye-candy, it’s going to be great working with you, welcome to the company? Or hot like, there’s no way I can hire you because all I can think about doing is bending you over the desk and pounding you senseless?”
Stacy laughs, lifting her hand to hide teeth that are perfect, in a habit she’ll probably never get over. She looks around the entrance and feigns consideration over the comparison. “Hot like, oh my God little baby, Daddy is going to take very good care of you.”
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Henley was born with a full-blown passion for run-on sentences, a zealous indulgence in all words descriptive, and the endearing tendency to overuse punctuation. Since the early years Henley has been an enthusiastic writer, from the first few I-love-my-dog stories to the current leap into erotica.
A self-professed Google genius, Henley lives for the hours spent digging through the Internet for ‘research purposes’ which, more often than not, lead seven thousand miles away from first intentions but bring Henley to new discoveries and ideas that, once seeded, tend to flourish.
Henley has been proudly working with LT3 since 2012, and has been writing like mad ever since—an indentured servant to the belief that romance and true love can mend the most broken soul. Even when presented in prose.
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